Academic Excellence Award – Sumeya Mohamed,
Bachelor of Science in Interior Design
It was three years into her program when Sumeya Mohamed knew she wanted to work on the healthcare and commercial sides of the Interior Design field. It was a direction and a goal she was determined to work towards.
One year later – and her goals are fast becoming reality. Mohamed is finishing up a year-long internship with Ryan Companies and has already accepted a full-time position with the company as an Interior Designer One, once she graduates this May.
The position will give her the opportunity to work on the kinds of projects she always dreamed of.
“I feel extremely lucky,” Mohamed said. “Things have lined up for me in a really strong way. Everything feels like it’s right and it is because of Dunwoody that this has been possible.”
But what Mohamed calls lucky – everyone else recognizes as a lot of hard work, perseverance, and creative ability – three of the very reasons she was selected as one of this year’s Academic Excellence Award Recipients for the School of Design.
When presenting Mohamed with the award, Interior Design Associate Professor Lisa Loudon credited Mohamed’s focus, positive attitude, and leadership skills for why she was selected as this year’s recipient.
Born in Minneapolis, Mohamed is a first-generation American. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Somalia before she and her sister were born. After her parents divorced, she watched her mom struggle to provide for them.
“My parents divorced growing up and my mom struggles a lot,” she said. But one thing was clear, education was a top priority in her home and Mohamed always knew she was expected to earn a college degree.
“My mom made that very clear, that the one way to move up in this world is to go to school,” Mohamed said. “Education is very important to her. She knew she wanted that for her kids, and she regrets that she didn’t have that opportunity. I want to eventually support her with the education I have.”
When Mohamed walks across the stage this May and receives her diploma she will become the first in her family to earn a Bachelor’s degree.
“Everyone is really proud,” she said. “And this field is something out of the ordinary in our culture.”
Mohamed started planning for her future early – back before she graduated from Southwest High School in Minneapolis.
“I knew I wanted a career in Interior Design,” she said. “I think I have design in my blood. My dad is a tailor of handbags. He is really good at sewing. From him, I learned how things come together. Art is fun and different, but I really enjoy the technical part of Interior Design.”
Her point of view and life experience is what gave her that keen interest in the commercial side of Interior Design, especially healthcare. And she has taken on leadership roles within her program.
“Having that one-on-one connection with my teachers has been important,” she said. “They believe I am capable of it.”
Mohamed enjoys sharing her interest and her passion for the built environment and how it can impact the broader community with others who may not be familiar with the field.
She also likes the collaboration that happens within the design field, and has learned a lot from team project, like the one in her healthcare studio.
“In design we are always talking, always communicating. Those partnerships really helped me understand the level of communication needed for design,” Mohamed said. “That project was my first healthcare project and it piqued my interest for that sector and how impactful design can help a community.”
Looking back at her time here, Mohamed said a lot of people have helped her be successful – her admissions counselor, Macy Lee; Korrin Howard, the Director of the School of Design; Ashley Van Lieshout, Program Director for the Women in Technical Careers Initiative; and Jonathon Moore, the New Student Retention Coordinator who also happened to be the first person she met on campus who showed her around and made her feel welcome.
“Dunwoody has been amazing – I don’t know how you don’t make it out of here successful – there are so many resources,” she said. “I’m really excited to be a part of a small community, and I feel like I am recognized,” she said.
As a person of color and a Muslim woman, that level of support has been important.
Mohamed has seen a lot of changes during her four years at Dunwoody. She started before the COVID-19 pandemic and loved the creativity that came from the hands-on, project-based learning, and the close connections they built with their professors. When the pandemic hit, and classes moved online, she learned the value of being organized, driven, and committed to her studies. Coming back to campus demonstrated the importance of the fun, excitement, and energy that is brought to the table when people can work together and collaborate.
And while the next step in her career is already mapped out, Mohamed doesn’t ever want to stop learning. She also hopes to inspire more people of color to enter the technical and skilled trade fields.
“There is a place for everyone in the construction and design world and I would love to be able to teach one day,” she said. “I want younger people to understand that there is a lot of opportunity out there. When you don’t know anyone in design or construction, it’s hard to picture yourself there.”
For Mohamed, one of the most valuable lessons she has learned during her time at Dunwoody is the importance of empathy in design.
“That was a big moment, learning to see things from the outside. To really connect with people and not judge so quickly,” Mohamed said. “Seeing beneath the surface helped me grow as a person. In design, understanding people’s needs through connection and conversation has been really helpful.”